Understand Adult Learning Principles And Improve Your Crew Training
Dec 7, 2021

The airline sector is strictly regulated and still a rather conventional industry. Pilots, cabin crew, and all other staff involved in airline operations must undergo a lot of training throughout their entire careers.

Teaching in the classroom and lengthy PDFs is still at the center of many airlines’ crew training. But did you know that (apart from being super outdated), learning in the classroom is not the best method for adult learning? 🤯

It is no surprise that adult learning is different from how we learn as children, but many companies across all industries struggle to apply basic adult learning principles in practice.

How can you improve your crew training program?

Adult learning principles? 🤔

We humans learn all our lives. But the way we learn as children in school differs significantly from learning in adulthood. Children learn by observing, listening, asking questions, and exploring.

Adults learn a bit differently. As adults, we are self-directed learners and we rely on the experience gained through life. We are eager to have an effective learning experience, because we are constrained by time. As adults, we want to know how learning will expand our knowledge and improve our lives. Practical and relevant content is of great importance for us.

Repressed by the time, as adult learners, we find teaching in the classroom impractical and stressful. It takes too much time and the learning process is ineffective.

American educator Malcolm Knowles has developed the term ‘Andragogy,’ which addresses Adult Learning Theory. This theory explains five adult learning principles 👇

Adults don’t learn the same way as children


(methods and practice of teaching children)


(methods and practice of teaching adults)

Self-conceptLearning depends on instruction. Educator is responsible for learning efficiency. Learning is self-directed. Learner independently directs the learning and is responsible for the learning process.
ExperienceLearner has limited experience to learn from. Learner builds on their existing knowledge.
MotivationMotivated by external factors – parents, teachers, grades, consequences of failure. Motivated by internal factors – self-esteem, quality of life, quest for recognition.
Orientation to learningEducator breaks down the learning into small units that are delivered in logical sequence.  Learner desires to learn skills that they can immediately apply to and improve the work they are doing.
Learning readinessLearner becomes ready to learn what the teacher requires.

Learner becomes ready to learn when they see the content is relevant to their lives.

Many airlines have redefined traditional learning methods and have opened for new learning methods to accommodate adult learning traits. To provide crews with more accurate learning methods and save time and reduce costs, many airlines look for more effective ways to train their crews. 

As a training manager, if you struggle with providing better and efficient training, you may want to dive deeper into adult learning principles. Understanding adult learning principles and knowing how to apply them in your crew training is essential to improve your crew training.

Snack learning?

Did you know that information is most meaningfully processed by the learner when it is presented in digestible pieces?

Learn more about Why ‘snack learning’ delivers highly effective training

Self concept

Adult learning is self-directed. Adults want to learn at their own pace and in their way. Adults want to decide when and what they will learn.

As a crew training manager, you should provide your crew with deliverables that can be completed quickly, conveniently and at the learner’s benefit.

Why not take advantage of modern technology and allow your crew to learn when and where it fits them?

Pro tip

E-learning courses that are mobile-friendly allow your crew to complete them anytime and anywhere. Whether they are on their daily commute or from the comfort of their home. Provide your crew with learning tools that allow them to direct their learning process and adapt it to their schedule. Whether they have 10, 15, or 20 minutes they can easily tick off sections of their e-learning  🙌 


Adults learn the best when they ‘do.’ When learning, adults also draw from their previous life experiences and build on the existing experiences.

Let’s be honest and admit that nobody wants to sit in a classroom for hours or go through endless PDFs every few months.

But, how can you make crew training more engaging? 💥

Provide your crew with interactive training where learners can become an active part of the process. Trends show that disrupting traditional learning with more engaging and immersive learning is a way to go.

Pro tip

Ask your crew members to complete small work-related tasks as a part of your e-learning course. This way, you will disrupt passive linear learning with active participation. When the crew takes an active part in the process, it can boost learning effectiveness and help them remember important information  🚀

Virtual training without expensive VR equipment?

Yes, you can take traditional e-learning to next level without VR equipment and improve your crew training.

Learn more about Virtual Training as a New Approach to Traditional e-Learning


Adults are motivated by internal factors such as self-esteem, quality of life and the quest for recognition. Adult learners know their goals and needs, and are typically highly motivated. Spending a lot of time in the classroom and reading outdated PDFs may be a demotivating learning experience. 📚 

Many airlines are incorporating innovative solutions such as virtual training and e-courses. Not only that aviation training will be a more enjoyable experience, but it will also boost crews’ motivation. Motivated crew members will consequently learn more and their performance will increase. 📈

Pro tip

Make sure your crew can test their knowledge without being tracked. This will take away the pressure of being monitored and allows the crew to evaluate their skills stress-free. You can do this by developing an online quiz where the outcome is not graded, but only serves for a crew member to get a picture of where they need to improve before the real quiz takes place. To keep their jobs or to progress in their careers, crew members are naturally motivated to maintain their proficiency. If you allow them to determine the gaps in their knowledge without putting too much pressure on them, they may be more motivated to study harder on their own without failing a quiz first. 

Orientation to learning

Adults want to learn new skills that will immediately impact their work and expand their expertise. Adult learning must be practical and work-oriented.

Crew members want a simplified way of learning new skills that will improve their work effectively and your crew training, too.

As adults are more interested in learning skills that they can apply to their life and work, teaching practical techniques in the context of their daily activities is more welcomed compared to theoretical concepts.

Pro tip

Make real life case studies part of your e-learning courses. Not only will your crew members learn from the experience of others, but real life case studies help crew to connect theory with real life situations and understand why specific topics are crucial for their training. By doing this, your training will prepare your crew members to successfully apply learned knowledge in real life situations.

E-learning courses features that are a MUST

Forget the classroom and train your crew in flexible online environment.

Learn more about important e-learning features here.

Learning readiness

Adults learners become ready to learn when they see the training program’s content is relevant to their lives.

That is why the short-term relevancy of the information within the course and the long-term benefits of the training must be clear to engage adult learners. 

Ensure that your crew members understand what they will learn in a specific course and how it will make them better in their job. 

You can demonstrate short-term relevancy of the information within the course by explaining how the course will help the crew better understand a specific topic. 

You can show the long-term benefit of the training by describing how that knowledge gained during training will make the crew members better at their role.

Pro tip

As adults desire to learn skills that can improve the work they are doing, make sure your crew members are aware of the learning outcome. Include a list of learning objectives and what they will be able to do more efficiently once they complete specific training. Learning objectives should be a first part of the e-learning course and you can also sum it up at the end of the course.

By implementing e-learning  in your crew training program you can make crew training more engaging and effective. E-learning allows you to apply multiple adult learning principles at the same time and help crew learners to learn more effectively. 3,2,1, are you ready to improve your crew training program? 🚦

Bonus tip

As adults want to be involved in their learning process, do everything you can to give them a sense of participation throughout the process. Encourage collaboration and discussions between your crew and instructors. Ask for feedback on the course content, quizzes and even software used. By doing this, you apply all of the adult learning principles discussed above and allow your crew to train more efficiently.


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